“Damnit, Evans. We’ve got people dying out here, find her.”
“Yes sir.” Evans broke the line, and the Admiral fought back a sigh. Losing his temper like that shouldn’t have happened. He was in charge, he was supposed to maintain his calm. And yet…and yet, there were tendrils of mist seeping through the building. Men were screaming and cursing and shooting, and there was no way to know which shots were being fired at Bast, and which ones were being shot at shadows.
The best armed and best trained military in the world, and a single monster has us falling apart. Which wasn’t entirely fair, he knew, but…
“Sir?” Admiral Bridges turned to look at Doctor Parvathi. The doctor looked every bit as frayed as he felt. “Even if the Myrmidons locate the subject, they’re wearing the old harnesses. So far those have proved ineffective in combat against these deities.”
If she had been a man, Admiral Bridges might have struck her for that. He knew damn well how ineffective the older models had been. Pointing it out accomplished nothing. “Well, Doctor, do you have a better idea?”
To his surprise, the doctor nodded, although she bit her lip in concern as she did so. “Yes, but I don’t think you’ll like it.”
The Admiral did sigh here. “Doctor, we’re running low on options. If you have a suggestion, by all means, please share.” The fact that he had to drag everything out of this woman –
“Activate the failsafe on level eight.”
The words completely derailed the Admiral’s thought, and he felt himself literally stare at her with his mouth open. “You want me to do what exactly?”
Doctor Parvathi didn’t waiver, “Activate the failsafe. I know the intention was to utilize it only in the most extreme circumstances, but at this point Bast has become a homicidal man-eater with a grudge to bear against us. I don’t see us getting out of this alive, but the failsafe should permanently kill her.”
He mulled over the doctor’s words. The idea was almost unthinkable – but so was the situation.
He could feel every eye in the room.
“No,” he said. An audible sigh went out of almost every person in the room. “There’s no guarantee it’ll permanently end the threat she poses. I’m not throwing away every life here for the chance we eliminate a single threat.”
Doctor Parvathi nodded, and to the Admiral’s eyes she looked relieved. You were testing me. You wanted to know if I was going to do it. “Understood, sir. In that case, perhaps the Myrmidons should go and permanently disable it? Otherwise we could risk the subject getting her hands on an active nuclear warhead.”
That suggestion, at least, seemed very fine to the Admiral, who relayed it to Evans. “What I want to know,” he said, turning back to the Doctor, “is how the hell she even got out of there in the first place. She was disabled for weeks, and we took every measure you wanted implemented. No food or drink or even interaction. We didn’t even interrogate her under your orders because you were certain that would keep her from getting her strength back. So why the hell is she running around our base?”
“Someone must have broken containment protocols, sir.” The doctor could only shake her head. “I assure you, without that, she had no way of getting the strength to get out. Probably Grace or Liam, since they were down there with her.”
The Admiral rounded on the two remaining researchers. Cassandra and Herbert, he recalled. “Did either of you notice them acting oddly? Sneaking down to the room alone, talking to the subject, anything?”
Herbert shook his head, which is what the Admiral expected. What he didn’t expect were the tears welling up in Cassandra’s eyes. “What is it?” he asked her, trying to keep his voice gentle.
“It’s just…they’re dead, aren’t they?”
God save me from bleeding hearts. “I’m certain of it. Did you see anything at all?”
She shook her head and raised a hand to her mouth, and the Admiral turned away in frustration. The camera feeds were intermittent, but still working. They didn’t relay anything new. Most were empty, some showed soldiers slowly walking through hallways with their guns raised, checking corners and occasionally firing at something unseen. Doctor Parvathi moved to his side.
“Admiral, there’s one other place Bast may be going.” He looked askance at her, and she continued, “The Black Sphere. We still don’t understand her connection to it, not fully, but I think it’s likely she’ll want it back.”
He nodded. “Agreed, but we can’t split the Myrmidons up, not right now.”
“Oh agreed. So send someone else, someone Bast may not harm.”
Admiral Bridges’ brow furrowed. “Who?”
“Cassandra.” Doctor Parvathi looked over her shoulder at the weeping woman. “Look at her. That isn’t grief, that’s guilt. She is the one responsible for Bast’s freedom, I’m sure of it. Which means Bast may feel some affection for her.”
The Admiral frowned, keeping one eye on Cassandra. She’s right, damnit. “Then how can we trust her?”
“Oh, we don’t.” The doctor held up something in her hand. “We make sure she’s wearing this.”
Admiral Bridges looked at the doctor’s hand, and felt sick. Still, he nodded. “Do it.”
God help me for what we’re about to do.